by Ann Garrison
This week, as the conference dates approached, The New Times published several articles condemning it and quoting Ngoga saying, “For a few years now, some defense lawyers at the ICTR have badly deviated from their professional duties and turned into activists and advocates of genocide denial.”
Ngoga and The New Times thus drew international attention to the significance of the conference to the ongoing struggle over disputed histories of Rwanda’s 1994 tragedy and related violence in Central Africa, both before and since.
Last week Ngoga warned leading opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire that she might be jailed once again if she continues speaking to the press. The election is scheduled for Aug. 9. Ingabire has not been allowed to register to formally run against Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
The ad hoc conference organizing committee also said that they are defending the right to freedom of speech and thought and expect the conference to be a non-disruptive exchange of ideas that would be subjected to public critique and historical and scientific evaluation, as the ideas exchanged at the November 2009 Hague Conference on the Legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda were.
They reaffirmed that the judgment had:
- Acquitted all four defendants of “planning or conspiracy” to commit genocide or other crimes, either before or after April 6, 1994;
- Acquitted the highest ranking officer to be tried at the ICTR, Gen. Gratien Kabiligi, of all charges; and
- Acquitted Col. Bagosora (who is represented by Rafael Constant of Paris, not Professor Erlinder) of all charges that occurred before April 6 and after April 8, 1994.
The committee also said, “Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime habitually calls its political opponents ‘criminals’ as has been demonstrated in the arrest and prosecution of Madame Victoire Inagabire and others in the run-up to the August presidential elections,” and “Kagame used the same tactic to virtually eliminate political opposition in the 2003 sham presidential election that formalized his monolithic regime.”
The conference organizing committee rejected the Kagame government’s efforts to make it illegal to question the role of Kagame’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front Party (RPF) in crimes that the RPF instead accuses its opponents of.
They said that Kagame and the RPF’s responsibility for the assassinations of the presidents of Burundi and Rwanda is the subject of French and Spanish indictments and of a wrongful death civil case in U.S. federal court and that RPF responsibility for these crimes has been confirmed by former Chief ICTR Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and others from ICTR Prosecutor’s Office.
Members of the ad hoc organizing committee of this week’s International Criminal Defense Conference in Brussels were Professor Peter Erlinder, Beth Lyons, Ken Ogetto, John Philpot and Andre Tremblay.
Kagame threatens challenger with prison for talking to press
President Kagame’s chief opponent in the Aug. 9 election, Victoire Ingabire, is now facing criminal charges brought against her for challenging Kagame and his ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front Party government. According to Ngoga:
“Ngoga’s threats reveal that the real purpose of the criminal charges against Madame Ingabire is to serve notice that no political opposition will be tolerated in Rwanda. And that the 2003 ‘sham elections,’ as reported by EU election monitors and other outside human rights observers, will be repeated in 2010, unless the Rwandan government completely changes its policies to permit a functioning democracy.”
Ingabire is charged with associating with terrorists and violations of the “genocide ideology” statutes creating speech and thought crimes unique to Rwanda, which Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and even the U.S. State Department have denounced.
Professor Erlinder will appear at Ingabire’s next hearing, on May 24 in Kigali, to insist on her continued release on bail, return of her computers and property, an end to the state’s interference with her presidential campaign and the full disclosure of prosecution evidence and witnesses.
Erlinder has said he intends to argue that Ingabire’s internationally recognized rights to free speech have been violated and that she is being denied due process.
He has also submitted letters to his Minnesota senators and congressional representative and to the U.S. State Department to request protection, stating that he has reason to believe that his own life could be in danger while he is in Rwanda because of leaked memos identifying him as a foreign enemy of the government and target for assassination.
The Human Rights Committee of the EU Parliament has written to Rwanda’s Ambassador to Belgium Gérard Ntwari objecting to Ingabire’s arrest and to ongoing repression of political and civil rights, including the right to free speech.
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in San Francisco, a regular contributor to the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, Global Research and Digital Journal and a news producer for KPFA Radio, Berkeley. This story combines two stories that first appeared on Digital Journal, at http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/292310 and http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/292033.
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